Lunch Recipe Formula

One of the fun parts about being gluten intolerant is that restaurants become a game of roulette. Even restaurants with “gluten free menu items” frequently screw that up, and I’ve gotten croutons on my gluten free salad before (after a specific request for no croutons). Salad dressings are a gamble – even vinaigrettes, if they’re from a bottle instead of made on site, since they often use thickeners.

The result: I don’t eat out much for lunch.

This means I need to bring my lunch every day. (I got a snazzy new grown-up looking lunchbox when I got my new job, specifically to be large enough to bring leftovers). The gluten free thing also means no sandwiches, and I’m very careful about bringing salads, because I am a giant clutz and always end up having to get oily salad dressing stains out of my shirts.

Alongside trying to eat small meals every few hours (which helps a lot with mood stability), this can be a little tedious, especially if it means cooking big meals every night so I have leftovers. While it’s pretty easy to have leftover chili, it’s harder with other things (like grilled vegetables, which SSH and I tend to just devour with abandon).

My solution recently has been to make a sort of casserole on Sunday with the express idea of eating it for lunch all week. While any casserole will do, one that doesn’t take much work is ideal. A baked (GF) pasta casserole does well and reheats well, as does my current favorite – roasted veggies and chicken.

Roasted Veggie Casserole

You need:

  • about 2lbs of meat, cut into 1” chunks (I usually use chicken breast or pork tenderloin, for a vegetarian version, try canned/cooked chickpeas)
  • Vegetables, cut up into roughly the same sized chunks – I’ve used red potatoes, sweet potato, carrot, beets, bell pepper, onion, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, garlic, asparagus, brussels sprouts; basically any veggie you can roast (tomatoes don’t do so well)
  • olive oil
  • white wine or chicken broth
  • spices and salt and pepper

This is basically a recipe shell. I don’t list any spices because you can really go nuts. I’ve made this Scarborough style (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme), southwest style (chili powder, cumin, oregano), Italian style (Italian spices, garlic powder, crushed red pepper), grilled style (grill seasonings of various blends).

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with no-stick spray. In a big bowl, dump all the meat and veggies, plus a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few sloshes of white wine. Add the spices and mix well. (Do not under-salt this.)

Dump the resulting mixture into the prepared pan, distribute evenly, and cover with foil. Bake at 400F, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes, until you start to see some browned edges.

I usually leave this on the counter to cool until it’s lukewarm and then divvy it up into 5 small glass containers (like these little ones) and pop them in the fridge.  (Sometimes if I really fill the baking dish, there’s enough for a weeknight meal too) With a piece of fruit, you’ve got an excellent lunch that only takes a few minutes to get hot in the microwave and is remarkably good for you, with the added benefit that it is very neutral in smell (just the spices), so your coworkers won’t hate you for making the place smell like stale curried fish.

And it’s super tasty too!

This week’s version has chicken, new potatoes, zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and carrots, with Mrs. Dash “Garlic and Herb” plus a good bit of salt and pepper. Next week I’m thinking I’ll try an Italian version, maybe with pesto, garlic and tomatoes.

Jalapeno Stuffed Chicken Breast

Kadomi, on twitter, was asking about good recipes to use with fresh jalapenos (no surprise, since the heat and drought in the southwest this year will definitely produce a bumper crop of hot peppers). I’m going to be making my favorite Apricot Jalapeno jam (that I use as Christmas gifts), but this recipe for stuffed chicken breasts is another favorite. It’s also one that we can thank the power of the internet for, as I got this recipe from an old World of Warcraft guildmate (Hi Merly!).

Jalapeno Stuffed Chicken Breasts

You need:

  • 4 large (or 8 small) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Jalapenos – I usually use 2 whole, but adjust to hotness – stems and seeds removed
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mince the jalapenos, green onions, and garlic finely. Mix veggies and about 1 tsp each salt and pepper into the package of softened cream cheese. Set aside

Butterfly and then stuff each chicken breast with 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture. This isn’t too hard, but if you’ve not done it before, check this video out first! (I usually don’t pound/flatten the chicken breasts, but that’s because I’m lazy. If you are lazy like me, you can just cut a pocket in the chicken breast – essentially the same first step as butterflying – and then fold it back over the stuffing. Works just as well, but sometimes your stuffing escapes while baking.)

Secure each breast with a toothpick.

Mix about 1/4 cup of flour and 3/4 cup cornmeal in a small dish with another teaspoon of salt (ish).* Take your rolled, stuffed, and toothpicked chicken breasts and roll them in the cornmeal mixture.

Place about 1 tbsp olive oil in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Arrange the chicken breasts in the dish so that they are not touching.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

This is especially yummy with … well, anything. Since I’m using the oven to bake my main dish, I usually just steam up veggies to serve with it, or make a salad. If I’m feeling fancy (or also cooking out of the garden) I’ll roast some fresh okra with onions and garlic. You can adjust the spiciness by adding more jalapeno or by leaving in some of the seeds. I usually make it with small chicken breasts (about the size of my fist) because they end up being more “one serving” sized.

*If you wish to make this dish gluten free, omit the flour. Or just omit the breading step altogether, and bake your chicken breasts with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Quick and Easy Enchiladas (or Casserole)

These are /not/ traditional enchiladas.  They are, however, quick, easy, and delicious, and since you are not actually cooking the chicken in the oven, relatively foolproof.  I will admit to not actually measuring anything in this recipe!

The original recipe (that I have lost) is for enchiladas, but upon discovering some completely stuck together tortillas in the fridge that were perfectly edible – but not actually capable of rolling into enchiladas – the casserole was born.

Also – you can adjust the heat as you like it.  Use spicy salsa and enchilada sauce, or throw in a few jalapenos if you favor the flame, or use mild and it’ll be much tamer.

You need:

  • 1 cooked rotisserie chicken (or a few cups of leftover cooked chicken)
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or jack or whatever you like)
  • 1 package flour tortillas
  • 9×13 baking dish

Preheat oven to 375.

Pick all the meat off the rotisserie chicken and chop it into chunks.  Dice the onion. Place both the onion and the chicken in a large bowl with the sour cream and the salsa.  Stir well.

FOR ENCHILADAS:

Spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, and put about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce on a big plate (measurements don’t really matter at this point). Take a tortilla and dip it into the sauce on both sides, add a scoop of the chicken mixture, and roll.  Place it in the pan.

Repeat until the pan is full, then dump the rest of the enchilada sauce over the prepared enchiladas, top with cheese, and bake for 30-40 minutes (or until bubbly and gooey and delicious).

FOR CASSEROLE:

Spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, and put about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of the pan.

Tear up 2-3 tortillas and make a layer of tortilla goodness on top of the sauce.  Add approximately half of the chicken mixture, spread evenly, followed by another half cup or so of the enchilada sauce, and half of the cheese.

Repeat with more tortillas, chicken, and sauce – but hold off on the cheese.  Add another top layer of tortillas, the last dregs of the sauce, and the last half of the cheese.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly and delicious.

Stuffed Roasted Poblano Peppers

My own take on the restaurant classic.  Serve with refried beans and sour cream.

  • 3 large or 4 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup diced tomato (fresh is better, canned will pass)
  • 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
  • shredded monterrey jack or cheddar cheese
  • Spices – I use cumin and “Fajita Seasoning” (this has salt in it, if you want plain seasonings, add salt)
  • 2 qt casserole dish with lid

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Wearing gloves (really, trust me) wash the peppers, and then using a sharp paring knife, slice down one side and across the top part way to make a T shaped opening.  Pull out the white pith, and slice out the seeds, leaving the stem intact.

In a skillet over med-high heat, saute the chicken until it’s about half done, then add the onion and garlic. Season with Seasoning Salt and Cumin.  If you like spicier peppers, add some cayenne or red pepper flakes. When the chicken is cooked, add the tomatoes and mushrooms, cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Put the peppers into a 2qt casserole or covered baking dish (I can baaarely fit three peppers in my standard 2qt). Sprinkle a little of the shredded cheese in the bottom of each, and then stuff with the chicken mixture. Fold the sides back up, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.  Dump the enchilada sauce in the pan, making sure to get a little over the openings in the pepper.

Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes.

Quick Dinner

Menu:

Chicken smothered in Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto
Mixed Fruit Salad

Prep:

Thaw chicken breasts – 1 per person.

Into the food processor throw: 3 cloves of garlic, 3 handfuls of fresh basil, a healthy pinch of salt, 10-12 sundried tomatoes (roughly chopped), 1/3c. pine nuts, and 1/2c. parmesan cheese.  Pulse once or twice, then add olive oil slowly until it resembles the consistency of … pesto.  Should be pasty, thicker than yoghurt. This will make enough pesto for at least 4 chicken breasts.

Take chicken, sprinkle with pepper (pesto is salty, so don’t salt the chicken) and put in a pan with 2-3 TBSP olive oil over medium-high heat.  Cook for 7 minutes per side.

While the chicken is cooking –

Core and chop roughly two apples (I use a corer.  makes it faster!).  Add in 1 8oz can of mandarin oranges, drained, or two small oranges, supremed.  Dump in 1c. each frozen blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.  Stir to combine.  Add 2 TBSP Cointreau (or 2 TBSP lemon juice), and – if you are so inclined, a little chopped mint (dried is OK!).  Stir again.

Once the chicken is golden brown and delicious, spread a few tablespoons of pesto on each chicken breast.  Serve with a bowl of fruit salad, and (if you are so inclined) a glass of white wine.  The salty pesto on the chicken is a great complement to the sweet fruit!

Easy, Economical Chicken Lasagna Casserole

This is based loosely around Annie’s Chicken and Spinach Lasagna.

You will need:

1 large can of chicken breast meat, drained well
1 can of sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 large can Hunt’s Traditional Spaghetti Sauce (the big one)
12 oz cottage cheese – I used low-fat
1 egg
6-8 Lasagna noodles – use the “cooks in the pan” kind, not the “boil first” kind
1 cup shredded mozarella cheese, divided in half

Italian Seasonings (Parsley, Basil, Oregano)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

1 2-quart ceramic casserole dish (I love my Pyrex)
Large skillet of some kind

Heat the skillet over medium high heat with 1 TBSP olive oil.  Saute onions for a minute or two until they start to turn clear.  Add chicken and cook for another minute, until starting to brown.  Add garlic and mushrooms, cook for another minute (DO NOT LET THE GARLIC BURN).  Add 2/3-3/4 of the can of tomato sauce, put the rest in a container and freeze for individual spaghetti serving some other day.  Heat until just boiling, and then add in herbs.  I used about 1 TBSP each fresh parsley and basil, and about 1 tsp fresh oregano.

In a bowl, mix cottage cheese, egg, and half cup of mozarella thoroughly.

Now for the fun part!  In your casserole dish, place a good ladleful of the sauce to coat the bottom of hte dish (this keeps your noodles from becoming cement on the bottom of your casserole dish).  Then a layer of noodles (two for each layer was all I needed).  Then 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture, spread out.  Then 1/3 of the sauce.

Repeat twice, until you have on top a final layer of sauce.  Sprinkle with the other 1/2 cup of mozarella cheese.

Bake covered at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes (until bubbly on the edges) and then uncovered for another 10 minutes to brown the cheese.